It is a tradition unlike any other here at They Are Off. From the very first days of this blog, I have offered my Super Six Derby Pix in the weeks leading up to the big day in Louisville. Now, Mine That Bird and Super Saver weren't really what I call "prominent" in my opinions in the weeks preceding the Derby, but we are ready to go again with the first edition of the 2011 Super Six Derby Pix:
#1- Uncle Mo- His definitive win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile earned him this spot a long while ago. He destroyed a strong contingent of two-year-olds in that race and great things are expected out of not just him, but the connections as well. Owner Mike Repole is being hailed as a new brand of owner and just the tonic an "ailing" Thoroughbred industry needs. Now, just how "ailing" the industry is remains a subjective thought, but that is another story. Trainer Todd Pletcher got off the Derby donut with Super Saver's win last year. Can he make it two in a row?
#2- Boys At Tosconova- The runner-up to Uncle Mo in the Juvenile was allegedly supposed to run in the Grade 3 Holy Bull this weekend, but the connections opted to skip it. Of course, this decision leads to a plethora of "What's wrong with Boys At Tosconova?" ideas fermenting in everyone's head. A valid point, though, was raised on The Paulick Report Derby Index as to whether an offspring of Officer can get the Derby distance. It promises to be worth watching.
#3- To Honor And Serve- The winner of the Grade 2 Remsen Stakes last fall in New York, To Honor And Serve accomplished that win so impressively that he became a de facto contender for the Derby the moment he hit the finish line. It was his second straight graded victory following the score in the Grade 2 Nashua. Now, the question becomes just how good are those victories after the runner-up in both, Mucho Macho Man, got drilled by Nick Zito's Dialed In in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park on Sunday?
#4- Comma To The Top- The West Coast's leading Derby candidate overcame an exceedingly long shoe situation in the rainy paddock at Hollywood Park to win the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity. The win in the CashCall was the third in a row for the gelding (keeping in mind that Funny Cide in 2003 and Mine That Bird in 2009 are the only two gelding's to win the Derby since 1929), but now the question is what next. The original thought, I believe, was to go to the Grade 3 El Camino Real Derby in the Bay Area over the Grade 2 Robert Lewis in Southern California. What does that express about the connections confidence in the horse? Are they searching for an easier spot in Northern California and potentially ducking a tougher spot at Santa Anita? I don't think that is the reason, but I find it a questionable decision if it comes to pass.
#5- Tapizar- Steve Asmussen has been the leading trainer in North America so many times, I am losing count. Heck, he might be losing count. One thing he has not won yet is the Kentucky Derby. Yes, he has a Classic win (Curlin in the 2007 Preakness), but we all know the Preakness is not the Derby. Pletcher broke his Derby jinx last year, is it Asmussen's turn this year? The winner of the Grade 3 Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, it would be unique to see Asmussen going the Western route to Louisville. Normally, you think of him more as an Eastern guy. In reality, he is just a winning machine everywhere. The Sire, Tapit, has been producing strong progeny almost from the get-go.
#6- Santiva- I know his highest career Beyer figure doesn't nearly match the other horses on this list and I know he hasn't raced since breaking his maiden in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club in November at Churchill Downs. However, I was truly impressed by his tenacity in repelling the challenge of Astrology in that race and Astrology certainly isn't a slouch either. It is likely that Santiva will be appearing in Florida shortly, possibly to run in the Fountain Of Youth. I, for one, will be keenly piqued to see how he does in his return to the races.
Tune in again tomorrow for more from They Are Off. For right now, I am Gone... GOODBYE!